Lately, life has gotten pretty routine: school, work, practice, games, and repeat. And when we’re not doing any of these four things, I’m relaxing on the couch while Jack, 9, is playing on his iPad.
When I called him to dinner the other night and he didn’t respond, I realized there was a problem. We were totally disconnected. When he finally came to the table, he immediately propped up his iPad to watch something on YouTube.
“Eat your steak,” I ordered.
Then I had one of those mom moments where I just lost it. I took away his iPad and made him sit at the table until he ate his dinner. When he was done, we had a heart-to-heart about how we used to hang out all the time when he was younger. Oh, how I miss those days of chasing him around and being silly.
I know he’s growing up, but there’s still plenty of time left to have some tech-free fun with my little boy. So I decided to reclaim my mommy-and-me time. Here’s how I did it:
1. Read together
Since we both love to read, I created what I call “Reading Nook Sunday.” We sit on the couch together, cozy up under blankets, and read. Then we talk about what we both read. I usually have to give him the G-rated version of whatever I’m reading, but you get the gist: we’re doing something separate while still connecting.
2. Get in the game
Jack plays on a competitive soccer team. I usually rush to his weekly practices straight from work. I make a conscious effort to unplug during his practices, watching him learn new skills. On the weekends, I ask if he wants to scrimmage with me, or teach me something he’s learned. Because I ask him for help, he’s always willing to coach me.
3. Learn something new together
For Christmas, Santa brought us both skateboards with safety pads and helmets. Neither of us have any clue what we’re doing, but we are having a blast falling on our butts. Sometimes, we even have a smooth ride.
4. Get out in nature
Every day, we grab our golden retriever and go outside to enjoy the fresh air. Our pup needs a walk, regardless, so it’s a great opportunity to make it fun for Jack. We look up at the sky and debate what the clouds look like (that one’s totally a hot dog in a top hat!). We collect rocks to paint back home. We practice our graffiti art and chalk the sidewalks (also a great chance to review spelling words or multiplication).
5. Take him back to your childhood
When I was a kid, roller skating was my jam. There was a rink in my town that’s now long gone, but a quick Google search revealed one not too far from our home. We laced up those brown suede rental skates and went for it. Well, I sure did. Jack was a little nervous at first. After a few solo laps, I grabbed his hand and took him to the floor. We fell, we laughed, and we had a great time.
6. Do chores together
Jack has a set of chores he’s required to complete each day. One busy weekend, I told him I needed help with some of mine and gave him the most fun job of all: dancing with the mop (a.k.a. washing the floors). I let Jack put his favorite song on, and rock out to the music. In fact, he had so much fun that Jack now mops every weekend. I love that we are being productive and spending time together.
7. Age appropriate “crawls”
You’ve all heard of a bar crawl, so you know where I’m going with this. Except, Jack and I swap out the “bars” with other fun places, like parks, libraries, museums, book stores, and taco joints. We keep a list of places we’ve been and want to go. It gives us both new experiences and memories.
8. Get out of your comfort zone
I’m not one for those places where you bounce and jump, but I take Jack a lot. And usually one of his friends will join to share in all that bouncing and jumping. But recently, I decided to partake in the excitement — jumping into the foam pool and hopping around on the trampoline. Who knew it was such great exercise!
9. Talk to your child
This seems like a no-brainer, but I have declared that no electronics or TV are allowed during our family mealtimes. This also includes road trips and other times that are meant for talking and bonding. You’ll never catch my kid at dinner anymore with his iPad. Instead, we like to play 100 questions. This game is pretty self explanatory — we ask each other anything and everything. We also enjoy Peach and Pit, a game that goes over the best and worst parts of our day. I love when Jack says, “Hmm, no pits. But can I share two peaches?”
So, it’s up to you. You can simply ban all phones and screens during family mealtimes. Or, you can take it one step further, and head out for an outdoor adventure or two. Spending quality time with your child is a lot more fun — and necessary — than you may think.